Explaining the rules of voting for the civic election

The City of Grand Forks' Corporate Officer Diane Heinrich helps clarify who can vote in the municipal election in November.

Two months from now, Grand Forks’ residents will be lining up to cast their votes in the municipal election.

Since ballots were cast in the last election, several locals have questioned the manner in which residents are able to vote. Some were told they were not registered or simply unable to vote due to property matters.

Amidst the confusion about the criteria on the new city website, Diane Heinrich, the corporate officer for the City of Grand Forks stated, “The confusion is, if you look at the top of the website under ‘Grand Forks Elections’, there are two types of different electors.

“There is the resident elector and the non-resident, and it’s the non-resident that says only one vote per property in brackets below the requirements.”

A resident elector, as listed on the website, must be a Canadian citizen, must be 18 years or older, has to have lived within British Columbia for at least six months, and must have lived in Grand Forks for at least 30 days.

In the upcoming election, Heinrich said that the date to be considered a resident of B.C. is before May 18, 2011. In order to be considered a living resident of Grand Forks, that date is Oct. 20.

“For instance, if you have someone come in from Alberta and they moved here on May 18, then they would not be able to vote even if they just purchased property,” she said.

“And that’s not our legislation, that’s the province.”

“The other prerequisite has to be before the date of Oct. 20. So if somebody moved to B.C. and they met the criteria in April but they didn’t get to Grand Forks until the 20th of October, they couldn’t vote in Grand Forks.”

Locals will be placed on a voting list created by the city that includes previous voters and those who are eligible.

If a name isn’t on the list, a “Resident Property Elector” form can be filled up until the day of the election.

The perplexity of the rules of voting may be due to the misinterpretation of legislative rules.

On the city’s website, it states that while the criteria is basically the same as a resident voter, non-residents “only (have) one vote per property. If the property is owned by more than one person, only one owner is allowed to vote. The individual assigned the right to vote for the property must have the written consent of the other owners.”

“Say you have a couple that live in Area D and they own a house in the city,” explained Heinrich. “The rules say that you may have two people on title but only one person as property owner can vote and there are also forms for that.” “It’s the non-resident property elector that only allows one vote.”

However, Heinrich mentioned that should a property have multiple owners, the person voting would need an agreement of the majority of the registered owners that he or she could vote

She said that the voter would not need everyone’s consent, only the majority.

“This is legislated throughout B.C. and it’s called the Local Government Act,” said Heinrich. “The elections are all ruled through the Local Government Act so everything is outlined within the act and the rules that we have to follow.”

Peter Gzowski, director of Voter Registration and Boundaries with Elections B.C., confirmed voting provincially was the same.

“The provincial rules say that you must be a resident and you can only vote once provincially,” he said.

“Non-resident electors allow people to vote in one municipality and if they hold property, to vote too as a non-resident in another municipality.”

“Elections B.C. does not hold non-resident electors, we focus on holding the residents of B.C. and providing their address to local municipalities to support the local government election.”

This year’s municipal election will occur from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 19 at the gymnasium at Perley Elementary School.

Advanced voting will be held Nov. 9 and Nov. 16 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary boardroom, which is located in the RDKB building on Central Ave.

– Originally published on Sept. 21